Following the restoration of historic properties. Dave is in Stockport, at the stunning Bramall Hall. Owned by Stockport Council, this isn't your typical council house.
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Want to know about British history? You better get your hands dirty.
Don't bury your head in a guidebook.
Ask a brickie.
Or a roofer.
Ever since I were a boy, I've had a passion for our past, so...
I'm going to apprentice myself
to the oldest masonry company in the country,
mastering their crafts
and scraping away the secrets of Blighty's poshest piles -
from castles to cathedrals,
music halls to mansions,
palaces to public schools.
These aren't just buildings,
they're keys to opening up our past and bringing it back to life.
Today, I'm in Stockport, Greater Manchester,
helping to restore one of its oldest and most stunning manor houses.
I'll be unravelling some secret medieval cartoons...
-Ride a cock...
-..horse to Banbury Cross.
..get to grips with a bit of woodwork...
I'd turn the chisel the other way round.
..and discover the area was famous for its luxurious hats.
-I thought it was wool for felt.
-Stockport's fur, much higher class.
Really? That's a posh hat.
They say all roads lead to Rome,
but several Roman roads lead to Stockport.
When it became a town in the 13th century, Stockport became
famous for weaving, for hat making and posh suburbs like Bramhall.
It's as full of mystery as history.
Bramall Hall is one of Greater Manchester's grandest
with the oldest part dating back to the 14th century.
Over the years, this spectacular house has only ever had
a few careful owners...
..with one family, the Davenports, residing here for around 500 years.
But in 1935, it was sold to the local authority
and is now in the hands of Stockport Council.
Today, this beautiful stately home is a museum
with its 70 acres of landscaped parkland, lakes
and woodland open to the public.
It's in the middle of an 18-month renovation project
with the skilled builders from William Anelay
and the contract manager Marcus Walker at the helm.
-How do, Marcus? You all right?
-Yeah, good, and yourself?
Does it just come in black and white or does it come in other colours?
No, this has been painted. It's an oak timber-framed building
-that's been painted.
Have you got a lot of work going on here?
On the hall, we've got stained glass windows being taken out now.
I know it's nearly 1,000 years old, so I can imagine over that time,
you know, you're not going to be the first people to have a go
-at fixing it, are you?
-No, definitely not. No.
We're replacing some of the glass cos it's distorted over the years.
What are those lads doing up there?
Carefully taking the glazing out now to send away,
back to the workshop to be re-leaded and re-glazed.
-It's a big site, innit?
It is a big site, but it's an interesting site.
This fantastic restoration
requires eight tonnes of mortar,
around 4,000 handmade clay bricks
and three brickies.
By the end of the project,
the builders would have redecorated
and rewired part of the hall
and installed a lift for access.
Alison Farthing, a local expert from Stockport Council, gives me
insight as to why this magnificent building is such a delight.
It's rather wonderful, isn't it? Who used to live here, Alison?
Well, the Davenport family had it
for about 500 years,
but in 1877, they sold it to a gentleman called Charles Nevill,
and quite a lot of renovations and modernisations of the time
took place then.
It was actually then sold to the Council.
-It must be the poshest council house I've ever seen.
What are the Council going to do with the building?
I mean, why are they spending all this money?
It's important to have this as part of our museum collection.
We, obviously, have people come and visit it.
It's popular for local people.
The other thing to say is we actually have quite a lot
of schoolchildren who come and use this
cos it's part of their history, it's part of their curriculums.
What sort of works are going on in here?
You've probably noticed the beautiful windows,
the leading and the stained glass.
We've actually got some specialist glazing restorers,
so they will be removing these panes.
-Cos it is gorgeous, isn't it? It is very intricate as well.
This is one of my favourite rooms in the hall.
That's what I love about these buildings,
they're a wonderful window unto the past, you know?
They tell the story themselves, and it's great that this building
is going to be used for the 21st century.
That's what we want to try and do.
We want to try and bring it back to life.
The main building was closed in 2014 to start work.
And Bramall Hall's spectacular Withdrawing Room
is the centrepiece of the house.
-It's impressive, isn't it?
Yeah, now you're talking. This really is absolutely amazing.
-This is really the heart of the project.
This is where it all began, really.
This breathtaking room's striking features are being preserved.
This is probably one of the finest examples of a decorative, ornate
Venetian plaster ceiling, certainly in the country.
And what we've been doing is
we've been taking off the many, many layers of modern paint,
mending it where they can.
But it's so unusual to see that amount of light, isn't it?
And this would have been a room
where people would have withdrawn to.
Well, I can't wait to come back and have a look when it's finished.
What a time capsule!
Restoring these exquisite windows in the Withdrawing Room
is a big project.
Although some of the original leaded glass remains,
much of it has become tired and broken.
And it's the job of stained-glass expert Leon Conway to restore them.
One of the worst windows we found within the building
is this one. You can see that all the solderings are breaking down.
It's quite buckling and bowing. And this is one the reasons why
we're doing this restoration work, to get rid of this kind of thing.
The first stage is all about the preparation.
Leon makes a plan of the original leaded window to replicate
where the lead was previously
so later he can build on it like a jigsaw.
Now he can start on the window.
He discards the lead and keeps as much of the original glass
We do this by snipping through the lead,
carefully pull it away from the glass. Snip through.
Pull it out.
You work through it until you can get each piece out.
Carefully working through it.
The older the lead, the easier they come apart.
With the glass out, it's then gently cleaned to remove any old cement.
If it's damaged, a new piece of coloured glass is cut.
Now he's ready for the next stage - releading.
A piece of lead is put between each piece of glass and pinned in place.
The whole process of releading hasn't changed
over hundreds of years.
It's very similar still now.
More modern tools, but the basics are still exactly the same.
When the window has been completely leaded,
the joints are soldered to bind them together.
It's then ready for sealing with a light cement.
Have to go around each, every single piece.
This will make it watertight.
The cement is left for a few days.
It's then cleaned up and left for a week until the cement is solid.
With the glass restored, it's put back into place,
but Leon has got his work cut out.
Another perfect fit.
Just a few hundred more to go and we're all done.
But, of course, when it comes to the windows,
restoring the stained glass is only part of the job.
Restoring these old oak frames for the glass to sit in
is joiner Adam Johnson.
-So, what are you doing?
-We're doing repairs to previous repairs.
What has happened,
in the past, they've repaired the bottom of the window
-and it's broken off.
-So, as I understand it,
you'll cut that away and then, with a new piece of oak,
-make a new repair.
-Yeah, that's correct, yeah.
What we'll do is on this now we'll have to chisel it,
make it into a flat piece of timber, our piece will then go on there
and we'll mould it to fit. Then glue it and fasten it on.
-So, are you going to let me have a go at chopping out?
-Yeah, of course.
-All we have to do...
-..is we are going to chop up in a line.
-Yeah. Like that.
It all depends on the grain.
I'd turn the chisel the other way round.
Well, that was a bit embarrassing.
With my pride dented and my chisel the right way around,
I can now start.
So, what do you think of a building like this?
It's been built especially well, really.
It's not really had many repairs on it in the past
and what has been done, has been done to a high standard.
It's just small areas like these that have come away.
It's so funny.
Taking a chisel to this oak is like trying to chisel away iron.
-It's hard, isn't it?
-It's very hard, yeah.
Oak must be strong, it's held this place together for over 700 years.
It's one of the better timbers to use, definitely.
There's 500 windows in this place,
so that's a lot of frames for Adam to work on.
So, Dave, what were you like at woodworking school?
What do you think? THEY LAUGH
I once made... I think my piece de resistance, I made a garden dibber,
which was very useful living in a brick...
back-to-back with a back yard.
No, I've done a bit since...
..but as I've said, everything I've done, you know, nothing like this.
Nothing with responsibility.
And in fact, I think I'd better pass the responsibility back
to the man who knows what he's doing. Well, thank you very much.
-At least I've done a bit.
I might even keep my shavings for a souvenir.
This fabulous historic building has many a tale to tell.
When the Second World War began,
this stately home was in the hands of the local council,
and resident historian Howard Green throws some light
onto Bramall Hall's contribution to the war effort.
On the other side of Manchester,
a girl's orphanage was evacuated to Bramall Hall.
They were accommodated locally
and, as an interim measure,
they had their lessons here in the hall.
Doubtless, it was all something of an adventure.
It was certainly a change from their surroundings.
These children were just a few of the thousands
that were evacuated throughout the whole of the UK
to the safety of villages and the countryside.
Industrial cities like Manchester were a major target,
and when German bombers descended on Britain,
air raid sirens go off to warn of an enemy attack.
Alerted, a city's population would seek cover.
In Manchester, some would have made their way to Stockport
to find shelter.
Elaine Topham is Education Officer
at the Stockport Air Raid Shelter Museum.
The facilities down here really were
quite unusual for air raid shelters.
So, as you can see, we've got electric lights
and we had those during the war years.
We also had flushing toilets,
and a first aid post and a canteen.
The safety meant that people came and stayed for the weekend,
and this was nicknamed the Chestergate Hotel.
The Stockport Chestergate shelter was the largest purpose-built,
civilian air raid shelter in the UK.
Made up of a labyrinth of tunnels, it could hold up to 6,500 people.
People that came down here were rich and poor alike, really.
Some people really liked it down here.
They loved the camaraderie.
There's also stories about the tunnels competing
in their singing.
I mean, singing was a great form of lifting morale
and spirits during the war.
And you can imagine, to take your mind off what's going on
back at your house and let's have a singsong.
But it wasn't for everyone.
Other people hated it
and much, much preferred, still, to take the risk under the stairs,
down in their Anderson shelter,
maybe the public shelters in the park.
Other cities in the North, such as Liverpool and Bradford,
took the brunt of Hitler's bombing.
Thankfully, Bramall Hall escaped untouched.
An old house can hold many secrets often only uncovered when the
building work begins.
And in the ballroom, it was the secret of medieval cartoons,
which Professor David Bostwick knows all about.
Major conservation work is being carried out on this
enchanting room, which is finely decorated with wall paintings
dating back to the 1500s,
depicting a range of people and mythical beasts.
For once, I'm lost for words.
Is this unique in Britain?
Yes, it is. There's nothing else like it.
These elaborate drawings weren't revealed
during renovation works today but back in the 1880s.
It's painted in imitation of tapestry
from the early 16th century.
And yet, it's covered with little figurative scenes
-like the one behind you there...
..of a man strumming his lute and a lady with a sheet of music.
And they are both dressed in courtly Tudor costume.
Is this purely decorative or does it have a message?
Oh, it always has a message.
So, it's a matter of unravelling that significance.
Over the last ten years,
David has been studying these incredible medieval drawings.
-Do you want to have a look at this figure here?
-Yes! The rider.
The little boy, naked, has got wings
-with peacock feathers.
-So, would that being angel?
He's a little soul and he is riding a horse
and it's galloping, but can you see the horse has got
-the head of a bird, like a cockerel?
-Oh, gosh, yes.
It's a cock horse. Ride a...
-..cock horse to Banbury Cross.
But there is more to these drawings than meets the eye
with several having a hidden meaning.
Because he's galloping at such a speed,
making so much air turbulence
that this bird, up above here, has fallen off its perch.
To the onlooker, the message was don't be in a hurry.
It is thought that these paintings gave moral guidance and were
created at a time before people started writing everything down.
On this wall, you've got scenes of funny music.
-What do you mean funny music?
-Well, music you've got to avoid.
Yeah, yeah. Look at this here beneath this wonderful window.
And what it shows is a chap, flat on his belly and his arms are
-out and his legs are out...
-He looks not very happy.
..and he's been flattened by this mummy boar here.
Look at the bristles on her back there.
And then a daddy boar there.
And they're both squashing him.
And the idea is he's been listening to the wrong sort of music.
And so nature has turned it and that's the outcome.
If you don't follow true order and degree,
then nature will turn on you.
-Would you call it a moral compass?
We've got to keep this one for future generations.
These paintings could possibly be the only surviving, medieval
morality drawings and possibly the best preserved,
but on the opposite wall, the written word seems to take over.
What are the scrolls up there, David?
Well, whilst you've got this sort of visual morality,
up here you've got the first evidence of English
being used in rhyming couplets as written morality.
-And they say things like, that one up there.
"Slay not thy neighbour by word nor deed,
"but ever hurry to help him in his need."
So, before that would they have been in Latin and not necessarily...?
Latin or perhaps in French.
So, this is really important. It's sort of cutting-edge.
This is the tail end of the old visual tradition of the Middle Ages
and this is the start of the written tradition.
-It's a very, very important room.
There's nothing like it in all England.
They'll come to us... THEY LAUGH
Part of the works being carried out at Bramall Hall involve
conserving these beautiful drawings for years to come.
Contract manager Marcus and his team have their work cut out
as it's not just the fine restoration of the main house
that they're working on,
the outbuildings are being renovated too.
There's plans for the stables to have a full refurbishment
with educational rooms, landscaping and a cafe, to boot.
So, originally, this is an 18th-century shell and it's going to
be like a modern fit out on the inside?
Yeah, it's an 18th-century stable block for the hall.
We're bringing it up to the 21st century now.
New refurbishment right throughout the old stable block.
Right, are you keeping any of the old features,
any of the old beams or anything?
As you can see up above, all of the trusses,
they are the original trusses.
They are all being exposed and they'll be on show
in the education rooms.
All right, let's have a look at the rest.
I can see there's a fair amount of work going on here.
So, when you get into it, what were the stables built like?
Was it a bit shoddy cos it was just for horses?
No, the stable blocks, what we are working in here,
it's been well-built.
So, they must've been so wealthy, the Davenports, even, you know,
-they could spend that money on stabling the horses.
I think buildings are a great way to look at history.
-Sometimes they're far more interesting than books.
Do you know, Marcus, sometimes we are in these buildings
and your mind wanders and you feel you're going back in time.
What person in history would you like to go back and be?
-Probably Henry VIII.
Just for the laughter, the banquets, the dancing.
The six wives?
-Don't know about that.
Nor me neither, Marcus.
But the problem with a lot of these old buildings is that walls
aren't always straight and floors aren't level.
And there's nothing as tricky as building a curved wall,
as brickie Chris Sharp is about to show me.
'Sorry, I couldn't resist.
'Chris is repairing the brickwork above the arch.'
Are these bricks... Are you going to cement them in?
Just putting them in dry, so we can make sure the arch forms and works.
For Chris, this is basically a practice run to make sure
everything fits right before fixing the bricks into place.
Cos the difference between an arch window like this
-and ordinary window is you've got no lintel, have you?
The structure is made by the bricks keying together,
that will give you your integral strength.
The weight on top as well pushes down and holds the arch in place.
If you get it wrong, the weight on top pushes down,
-your window collapses.
Once Chris is happy that everything will work,
he'll start to fix the bricks in with lime cement.
But when adding the bricks to repair the curve,
there's a technique to follow.
Tight at the bottom, wide at the top
and as long as it's not proud of the line, that's it, done.
Obviously, when you say tight at the bottom, wide at the top,
-that's how you get the curvature of your arch.
-Do you want a go?
Well, I've never rebuilt a curved wall before, but here goes.
It's not so bad, actually.
Say that again, Chris. THEY LAUGH
It's not so bad, actually.
Thank you, God, it's happened at last!
Right, and you just pop it in?
-Tight at the bottom...
-Tight at the bottom.
-Slack at the top.
-Is that all right, Chris?
-You're a natural.
I'm made up. Should I do another?
I'm a natural. Who'd have thought it?
Potentially, if this all goes wrong, what would happen?
If it doesn't key together with the weight on it,
then there's nothing holding it up.
And that is not allowed to happen.
This is getting harder and harder now. I'm at the middle.
Because we've placed the brick on top of a layer of sand,
it allows you to titivate the brick slightly
while the mortar is setting.
We'll line it all up and actually look at it.
-Anywhere where it needs slightly moving, we can do.
Because of the sand that's underneath it,
it will let you move the brick back and forth till it's perfect.
Is that not perfect?
-It will be when I've finished.
Spurn him, spurn him in modesty.
I thought I was doing all right, like, you know, first attempt.
Yeah, it was very good for your first attempt.
In the mid-19th century, one family who resided here,
albeit only for a few short years, helped fashion hat making.
Wakefield Christy was the great-grandson of the founder of
the famous hat company Christy & Co.
Established nearly 250 years ago,
it has donned hats for kings and queens,
and for a time, they used Bramall Hall as their base.
Millinery was big news in Stockport
and learning manager Amanda Phillipson
from the local Hat Works Museum
explains what all the fuss was about.
-Would everybody have hats?
-Everybody wore hats.
When you didn't have cars, or you were in an open carriage,
you didn't want your hair to get windy
or you didn't want to be cold, so everybody wore a hat.
From the 18th century, Stockport became a centre of hat making,
but it really hit its peak in the 19th century
when the Christys were residing at Bramall Hall.
But why Stockport?
There are rivers that converge in Stockport
and you need water in order to make felt.
The fields provided the animals for the fur for felt
and along with the rest of the Industrial Revolution
that happened in the North, it was really the big place to be.
-I thought it was wool for felt.
-Stockport's fur, much higher class.
-Really? That's a posh hat.
-A very posh hat.
What would the hats be made from? What animals?
Well, originally it would have been beavers,
then it moved on to young boys catching rabbits in fields.
So the toffs up at Bramall would be wearing Stockport hats?
At the start of the hat making process was this Victorian machine.
This would use water, heat and steam to turn the raw fur
into a felt hood,
which would eventually become a hat.
-So, this is the beating heart of the factory.
It's what kept everything going.
Do all hats start out as a cone, a felt cone?
But to power up all the machines in the factory and to keep them
operating, a mighty steam engine was needed.
The steam engine, that was the key to it all, wasn't it?
It was the key to industry
from when it stopped being a cottage industry,
it became an international industry,
which presumably, led to the wealth that enabled the Christys
to going live at Bramall.
Before these powerful machines took over,
the cottage industry was in full swing,
using the traditional methods of making felt,
which I am about to have a go at.
First of all, if you pull out little pieces the wool from your skein
-there and lay them all going in the same direction.
The little hooks on the fibres, as they cross each other,
will start to join themselves together
when we begin the felting process.
To make good felt, you need the heat of warm water
and to apply lots of pressure.
So, presumably you couldn't make felt with man-made fibres.
-No, you can't.
-Cos you haven't got the hooks.
You haven't got any hooks,
but you could make it with your hair, if you wanted to.
Oh, I've only got precious little left.
Now, for a good spray of water, which wasn't always used.
Originally, it would've been urine.
You just need something that reacts against the barbs on the fur
to make them rough up.
Next, add a bit of pressure by giving it a really good roll.
The longer you do that for, the better your piece of felt will be.
If you unroll that now, you should have the makings,
-..of a piece of felt.
Yes. So eventually that felt would go over a former.
You can see it in my hand.
Yeah, so you would have the block
for the shape of hat that you wanted and while it was wet,
you would stretch it over that shape and then leave it to dry.
But now we get to the hats.
With over 400 on display,
I can't wait to get my hands on them.
So, here's a few hats. I'm sure we'll find one that will suit you.
-Oh, I like the look of that one.
-You want to try this on?
Ooh. That's me down Ripper Street.
That gives you a bit of gravitas.
Let's try one of those.
-AS CHURCHILL: We will fight them on the beaches.
Ha-ha-ha! Just like that.
Maybe not. Everyone likes a bit of sparkle.
Never did the Charleston.
-I've got one more for you.
-Oh, can't wait.
It's very impressive,
but I can't see my face.
During its heyday,
Bramall Hall would have been the venue for many a grand feast
and the Davenports would've held banquets that were plentiful
and fit for a king.
Egremont, Hutel, Silloth, Priddis, serve the ale.
This fine food needs to be eaten
and, by goodness, I feel a pavane coming on.
-I must say, Lady Devonport, you do look wonderful tonight
with our new pearl necklace.
Oh, I think you, sir, for your kind gift.
Oh, there's plenty more where that came from.
My lords, ladies and gentlemen,
would you like to hear number one in the charts in 1599?
We certainly would.
HE PLAYS GREENSLEEVES
Later this year, the restoration of this fine stately home will be
finished and this cultural delight will be open for all to enjoy.
Well, thank you all for joining us in our humble home.
We will see you again
and it's goodbye from the 16th century.
Next time on Harry Builder...
I'm just a short ferry ride across the Mersey at the seaside
town of New Brighton visiting the Dome of Home.
What a cracking view.
I'll be getting stuck in with the restoration work...
The Zen in the art of pointing.
..and I'll discover the amazing story
behind the church's origins.
He invested the money in the stock market.
So a priest is playing the stock market during the Depression.
This time, Dave Myers is in Stockport, Greater Manchester, at the stunning manor house Bramall Hall. Owned by Stockport Council, this isn't your typical council house.
Hairy Builder Dave discovers how this Tudor building is being turned into a top-notch visitor attraction. He looks around this impressive hall and comes across secret drawings - cartoons that date back to medieval times!
Dave also gets to grips with a bit of woodwork, helping to restore one of the hundreds of amazing windows in this fabulous hall.